“Tried and Found Wanting”

“For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.”—Psalm 66:10

I’ve noticed that many of the people I follow on Twitter describe themselves as “Jesus Follower.” I’m guessing they think this is more personal and less institutional than just labeling themselves “Christian.” Some of them seem aware of the bold audacity of their claim, and modify “Jesus Follower” with something self-deprecating such as “I’m not very good at it.”

I have tried to be a Jesus follower most of my life, so my profile could well be “trying to be a Jesus follower.” I’m not very good at it! G. K. Chesterton famously observed, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

As I get older it seems to me that faith is less about what I try to do, and more about what God is trying to do with me.

In our text for today the Psalmist employs the word “try” in a different way, to describe the testing through which God has put Israel. The metaphor is from the smelting process used to tease precious metal out of rocky ore. The Psalmist says God has tried God’s people with tests that have deepened their faith and dependence on God.

In much the same way God tries and tests all of us Jesus followers, as we go about our business in the world. If too often we have tried to follow Jesus and been found to be not very good at it, still God never withdraws the divine love and mercy from us. And for that we can give thanks!

Prayer: Keep trying us, God, as we keep trying to follow Jesus.

((This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotion for May 19, 2017. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the UCC Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here.)

“The Community that Mercy Makes”

“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” —1 Peter 2:10

The First Letter of Peter was written to encourage Christians in Asia Minor who were being persecuted for their faith. Most of them were Gentile converts to Christianity, and Peter reminds them that their inclusion in the church and in the promises of God was by an act of divine mercy made real by the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Continue reading

“Searching for Holy Ground”

“Then God said to Moses, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’” —Exodus 3:5

You can’t find holy ground with your GPS. You won’t even find it at famous holy places, though you might. Ordinary places become holy ground only because we meet God there. Continue reading

“Holy Weeping” A Devotion for Lent

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”—Romans 12:15

One of the stranger symptoms resulting from the traumatic brain injury I got 17 years ago is my tendency to cry at odd times, such as while watching sappy jewelry commercials on TV or foolish pet videos on Facebook. Continue reading

“A Continual Course Correction” A Devotion for Lent

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 3.02.37 PM“A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went.” —Matthew 21:28,29

Repentance has long been an important theme for Lent, but many are put off by the idea since it seems to demand one big life-changing event. A friend of mine had a big poster on his wall that said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” In small print at the bottom it said, “If you have already repented, please disregard this notice.”

But I contend that we should never disregard that notice since repenting is something we must do again and again and again throughout our lives. Continue reading

“First Things First”

first-things-first“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.” —1 Corinthians 3:11

My secular friends sometimes ask me, “Why the church?”

I hear myself come up with different answers at different times. “Because of the community.” They say, “Couldn’t you just join a book group?” Continue reading

“The Seven Last Words of the Church”

seven-last-words“Jesus said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” – Mark 7:6-8

Some of the scribes and Pharisees questioned Jesus as to why his disciples had not washed their hands before eating, as was “the custom of the elders.” He chastised them for their slavish devotion to custom, while neglecting their relationship with God.

Our customs and traditions are important for institutional continuity and for doing things in the church “decently and in order.” But customs followed for their own sake can stifle needed change and quench the flame of the Spirit. Continue reading